I refer to the travelogue Even Saphir (volume I, Lyck, 1866, and II, Mayence, 1874) by R. Ya'akov Saphir (or Sappir).
The book recounts his extensive travels among various Jewish communities of the world that were still remote, intact and traditional. For example, some of his most interesting material concerns his visit to Yemen (parts of this was actually translated and published by Feldheim as My Footsteps Echo: The Yemen journal of Rabbi Yaakov Sapir in 1997). He describes in detail the customs of the Yemeni Jews, such as their careful reading of the Torah, their retention of the meturgeman, quality of their pronunciation, etc. While much of this sort of material is well known, it must be realized that at the time of the publication of his book most of it was entirely unknown and a shocking, exotic and pleasant surprise to his readers. In addition, he brought manuscript material back from Yemen, including a centuries-old grammatical and masoretic treatise called מחברת התיגאן (published in 1870 by J. Derenbourg in the Journal Asiatique under the title Manuel du Lecteur. He informed the rest of the Jewish world of a large corpus of unknown midrashim . While in Egypt he gained the honor of being the second foreigner1 to gain access to the Cairo Geniza. Although he managed to find nothing (!) to speak of there, he is essentially responsible for informing the Jewish world of the Geniza's existence. There is an Aleppo Codex connection too, but I'll just advise readers to read it and find out for themselves. In any case, these volumes make very interesting reading.
What are the haskamos (approbations) I speak of?
They are from the Malbim, two notable maskilim and Karaite Hacham Abraham Firkowitsch (known as Even Reshef).
Solomon Munk and Senior Sachs (who goes on for pages, so I'm not showing it):
Incidentally, naturally I was curious about the following remark: " אמרו חז"ל כבוד האיש לעשות רצונו." My encyclopedic familiarity with rabbinic literature didn't help me, but some text searching did. Naturally the phrase does not appear in rabbinic works, so I believe we are speaking of an alternate חז"ל. Interestingly enough, the only other instance of this remark I could find was by Firkowitsch himself, on pg. 74 of his אבני זכרון. Here he does not mention חז"ל, thus I am unclear if he is truly quoting Karaite sages or himself (in which case he is probably trying to be clever here). (Incidentally, the following appears in R. Rafael Nahan Nata Rabbinowicz's Dikduke Soferim VI 1874 on Pesachim, introduction pg. 2: "רבן של כל בני מקרא כמ׳ אברהם פירקאוויץ נב״ת מכונה אב״ן רש״ף."
In any case, there will be another (or several) Firkowitsch posts in the future. But first, a photo of him:
1 Trivia gatherers may be pleased to know that the first traveler to visit the Cairo Geniza, that we know of, was Heinrich Heine's grandfather's brother, Simon van Geldern, in the 18th century.